1 of 12
Click ‘Next’ to View Gallery
No one really expected Pluto to be so interesting. When the New Horizon probe reached Pluto in July 2015, it found a world that might not be ranked as a full ‘planet’ anymore – now it’s a ‘dwarf planet’ – but it sure was full of intrigue. Here are some of the most interesting new discoveries:
Ashes To Ashes
The ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto back in 1930, were sent with the New Horizons probe that visited Pluto in 2015.
Still So Much To See
In particular, there are dark areas in the Southern Hemisphere astronomers would love to look at in more detail. Alas, New Horizon’s flight path wasn’t without certain limitations.
The Computer Needed Two Reboots
New Horizons’ brain consists of two 12 Mhz Mongoose-V powered computers. Twice during the long mission, the computers needed a reboot.
NASA is already talking about a ‘next mission’, this time with an actual landing. This one is hoped to be powered by a still-experimental nuclear space engine.
Pluto’s Weird Moons
There’s something weirdly random about Pluto’s Moons. Nix and Hydra are potato-shaped rather than spherical, meaning that they tumble around in space.
Charon’s Dark Side
Like our Earth and Moon, Pluto and Charon are ‘tidally locked’, rotating such that at each’s night, each body always sees the same ‘face’ of the other – and each has the same ‘Dark Side’ of the other, night after night.
An Eccentric Orbit
Pluto’s orbit is far off the relatively smooth plane the rest of the Solar System occupies. It’s almost as though the Sun were starting to lose its gravitational ‘grip.’ It takes Pluto 248 Earth years to orbit the Sun.
Pluto’s Rocky Realm
Pluto is the largest ‘Kuiper Belt Object’ – that is, object located in a distant region known for having vastly greater numbers of asteroids than ‘the’ Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Five And A Half Hours
That’s how long it takes light to reach Pluto from the Sun. Light from the Sun reaches Earth in eight minutes. This, meanwhile, is what the Sun looks like from Pluto.
The Atmosphere Falls In Winter
During Pluto’s long winter, the entire atmosphere falls as Nitrogen, Methane and Carbon Monoxide snow. Then it evaporates back into gaseous form.